Provincial cuts hammer HIV/AIDS services

The Report: February 2010 vol.31 num.1

ON DECEMBER 1, as local and national governments around the world reaffirmed their commitment to continue the fight against HIV and AIDS, BCs government announced plans to do the opposite.

Effective December 1 ... World AIDS Day ... BCs Ministry of Health imposed funding cuts to community- based HIV and AIDS service organizations, including AIDS Vancouver.

HSA represents members at three HIV / AIDS advocacy and service organizations in BC: AIDS Vancouver, Positive Womens Network, and the Living Positive Resource Centre in the Okanagan.

HSA President Reid Johnson said the cuts are unconscionable, and services must be restored.

-On World AIDS Day, instead of recognizing the need for maintaining and developing services for the increasing number of British Columbians living with HIV and AIDS, the Ministry of Health is mandating another set of shortsighted cuts," he said.

-Our members are the case managers and program coordinators working to support these people and to ensure that their devastating diagnosis doesnt translate into a death sentence," he said.

-You cant make a so-called ‘administrative cut without having a detrimental impact on program delivery." Johnson said that in addition to the funding cut on World AIDS day, another cut is planned for April 1, 2010.

-Cutting HIV and AIDS services makes no sense when BC has a disproportionate number of people living with HIV and AIDS. Our members at AIDS Vancouver tell us that for some areas of Vancouver, the HIV infection rate is at the same level as sub-Sahara Africa.

-We know from BCs Centre for Excellence in HIV / AIDS that the estimated lifetime cost to BCs health system of one new infection is $250,000. If a prevention educator keeps 50 people a year from being infected, how many times over is she paying for herself?"

Johnson said the union joins the call to support HIV / AIDS organizations. Representatives of various HIV / AIDS organizations in Vancouver have launched a campaign and website designed to help the public add their voices of concern. At British Columbians can send letters to MLAs calling for the protection of public health by restoring full funding to HIV / AIDS service organizations.

-Its shameful that on this very day, B.C. is rolling out funding cuts to community health based organizations in the Lower Mainland, including, AIDS Vancouver, YouthCO AIDS Society, the Dr. Peter Centre, Health Initiative for Men and Vancouver Native Health," said BC NDP Leader Carole James. -These services make a real difference in the lives of people with HIV/AIDS, but also to the broader community."

-Eradicating this disease requires leadership. It requires investments in research, education and harm reduction, in services for our communities, and in our people. And it requires a coordinated effort from all the worlds citizens. I call on the B.C. Liberal government to reconsider their funding cuts to these critical HIV/AIDS organizations."


 HIV/AIDS in BC: Whats at stake

Twenty five years ago BC was at theforefront of the response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, now the provincehas have an HIV infection rate disproportionately higher than thenational average.

In 2005 (the last year in which epi-data on HIVprevalence was published) there were an estimated 10,420 people livingwith HIV in BC, representing approximately 18% of Canadas estimatedtotal HIV-positive population (58,000 individuals). Given that BCrepresents approximately 13% of the overall population of Canada; BChas a disproportionate share of HIV burden.

In 2007, (the last year forwhich there is data available) 395 British Columbians were newlydiagnosed. The rate of new infections in BC is likewise unparalleled,with 9.1 NI/100,000 people infected annually, versus 7.5 NI/100,000 forall of Canada. In some areas of Vancouver the HIV infection rate is atthe same level as Sub-Sahara Africa.

At a time when vulnerability toHIV is so high, why is the BC Government choosing to cut the one sectorof the BC community that is dedicated to reducing HIV prevalence?

Checkout to learn more or get involved by sending ane-mail to Premier Gordon Campbell, downloading posters, or forwardinginformation to friends.